If you have followed this blog, the last article we published on trans fats, was aimed at demystifying cholesterol and the totally impossible tongue twisters that are a part of discussions on the subject. Those nasty LDLs (low-density lipoprotein), the triglycerides and the gentlemen HDLs (high-density lipoprotein). Demystification apart, at a very practical level, I’m sure that you’re asking yourself, “Fair enough, but what is the bottom line at the end of the day? How does one go about reducing total cholesterol and LDL levels; and increasing HDL?”
If you have an abnormal “lipid profile” as it is technically called, your first step is to visit a doctor and decide whether you need medication or not. Once you are in safe medical hands, make sure that you get yourself tested regularly. Next on the to do list are making specific lifestyle changes that will enable you to stop, or at least reduce, your medication levels over the long run.
So what are these lifestyle changes?
Well it has to start with your diet right? So here we go. With the advent of affluence, and restaurants vying for your loyalty, the concept of portion control has been totally messed up. But wait a moment, what is portion control? Sounds like some form of educational syllabus! Well, portion control is not a big deal really, it’s just a way to define the quantity of a certain food that a person should eat. A healthy portion of anything is a handful of it. Say, a piece of meat or fish, the size of your palm, is a healthy measure. A cup of rice, again needs to be a handful of cooked rice, and so on. Once you control the quantities you are eating, you are well on your way to good health.
Next we need to work on your diet content. First on the list is fiber, a seriously good guy who needs to be as widely incorporated in your diet as possible. Sources of fiber are raw vegetables, fruit and whole grain cereal that is processed as little as possible. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. They play a huge role in appetite control; since they fill you up, ensuring that you are not hungry for the unhealthy stuff anymore. Fiber is also the broom of the body, ridding it of toxins. Fiber even binds with fat molecules and removes them from the system.
Next up is fish. Fatty fish, such as salmon, trout and sardines; are a great source of Omega 3 acids. Omega 3 acids are a way wonderful to lower LDL and increase HDL. Grilled fish twice a week is a great idea. If you are vegetarian, flax seeds, sunflower seeds and nuts are also great sources of Omega 3. On the other hand, please remember the handful rule here. These nuts are fairly calorie intensive, and like we already know, calories not used by the body get stored as fat in one of its forms, something that needs to be avoided at all costs!!
You already know that trans fats are right up there with Dracula on the bad guys list. Omega 3 fatty acids, and unsaturated fats, such as those found in olive, sunflower or canola oil are part of the hero team. They can actually help you in the struggle to achieve a normal lipid profile. The only caveat is that any form of fat contributes nine calories per gram, and so even a small quantity can increase your total calorie intake very quickly. Always make sure that you read the food label before you buy a product that has fat, even if it says it is a zero cholesterol product. If the ingredient list has saturated or trans fats, drop it like a hot brick!
Next we come to exercise. Aerobic activities like running, walking and dancing; as well as strength training, are vital to improve your lipid profile. The exercise will help you burn fat, sleep better and reduce stress. All of which will go a long way in normalizing your lipid profile. In fact exercise is the key factor for increasing HDL levels. One hour of daily exercise, will go a long way towards keeping the good H guys alive and kicking in your system. Here we go back to the caution factor. Please get yourself medically cleared for exercise before you start, and take it nice and slow to start with. A gentle walk is a great way to begin. Increase the pace and duration steadily. Aim for a minimum of one hour’s exercise every day, and stay with it consistently for the rest of your life.
In the end, it always comes back to the same things – a healthy diet, daily exercise and seven to eight sleep hours every day. It’s also important to make a conscious effort to control stress. Once you know what it takes, it’s not such a big deal after all.
About the Author:
Sunitha Srinivasan is a Lifestyle Consultant and Resistance Trainer. She has qualified with the National Association for Fitness Certification, Arizona, USA. She conducts workshops on wellness that she calls ‘A Celebration of Life’, counsels on the management of lifestyle diseases and writes for leading journals and magazines.
She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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